Feel what you eat: the emotional, psychological, and physiological responses to ingestion of healthy and unhealthy food stimuli in unrestrained males and females

Rachel A. Gaines, The College of Wooster


Previous research demonstrated that physiological and emotional responses are manipulated by food intake (Geisler & Polich, 1992; Macht, Gerer, & Ellgring, 2003) and there is an over-exaggeration for anticipated emotions to food (Wood & Bettman, 2007). In experiment 1, 120 participants completed the Dutch Eating Restraint Scale (DERS, van Strien, Frijters, Bergers, & Defares, 1986) to distinguish between restrained and unrestrained individuals. Thirty-five participants (15 males and 20 females) between the ages of 18-21 (mean age = 19.5) who demonstrated unrestrained eating patterns in experiment 1 were examined in experiment 2. Temperature (TR), heart rate (HR), and galvanic skin responses (GSR) were examined, where TR increased significantly in response to unhealthy and healthy stimuli. Anticipated emotions (Happy, Angry, Sad, Ashamed) were evaluated and sadness was exaggerated for both stimuli. Anger and shame were exaggerated for the unhealthy stimulus, while happiness actually increased. A decrease in healthiness was observed in the unhealthy food stimulus. A correlation between some emotional and physiological responses was shown. Experienced shame was significantly different between the cheesecake stimulus and the apple stimulus. No sex differences were found. Further research should evaluate participants of different ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, and compare overweight, normal-weight, restrained and unrestrained male and female physiological responses immediately after food ingestion.